Congress, White House reach two-year budget deal

27 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Budget Deal Isn’t Boehner’s ‘Grand Bargain’ but Gets Job Done.

WASHINGTON — The White House and congressional Republicans appeared to have struck a tentative budget deal late Monday that would raise the debt ceiling and increase government spending by more than $110 billion over the next two years.Just days before the election of a new speaker of the House, lame-duck Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, made good on one last promise — that he’d try to “clear the barn” for his successor.Less than a year ago, after Republicans rolled up big majorities in the 2014 congressional elections, their leaders set out to show the nation that conservatives were up to the challenge of governing. “The logjam in Washington has been broken,” House Speaker John A. Boehner helped engineer an $80 billion bipartisan budget agreement with the Obama administration that may fall far short of earlier visions of budget grandeur but would still get Congress through a potentially dangerous period for both the economy and itself.

Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared. “We will make it our job to prove the skeptics wrong.” So far, alas, the skeptics have been right. The spending limits would rise in 2016 and 2017, with Democrats getting an increase on domestic spending equal to the amount Republicans would add for defense.

Shortly before midnight, House Republicans posted the text of the 144-page bill, which was labeled a “discussion draft” but appeared to reflect the tentative agreement as described by congressional aides throughout the day. The budget pact, in concert with a must-pass increase in the federal borrowing limit, would solve the thorniest issues awaiting Ryan, R-Wis., who is set to be elected speaker on Thursday. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has locked down most Republicans’ backing for his speaker bid and is likely to win official support from the conference Tuesday and become speaker the following day, after the full House votes. Those increases would be offset by cuts in spending on Medicare and Social Security disability benefits, as well as savings or revenue from an array of other programs, including selling oil from the nation’s strategic petroleum reserves. It would also take budget showdowns and government shutdown fights off the table until after the 2016 presidential election, a potential boon to Republican candidates who might otherwise face uncomfortable questions about messes in the GOP-led Congress.

For it to pass the House, the pact will need to quickly win backing from most Democrats and at least a few dozen Republicans who have frequently balked at spending and debt-ceiling bills they say don’t do enough to shrink the budget deficit. The $80 billion increase amounts to little more than 1 percent per year of the nearly $4 trillion annual federal budget, but carries the politically charged significance of breaking through agreed-upon spending caps that Republicans had praised as a rare display of responsible cost-control and Democrats criticized as a wrongheaded drag on economic growth. No final deal has been announced yet, but lawmakers said Republican and Democratic leaders hoped to put finishing touches on the package by late Monday, with the possibility of a vote in the House as early as Wednesday. “We’ve had the outline of the deal offered to us; we’re now awaiting to get the details,” Rep.

Nonetheless, the deal would represent a major breakthrough after years of gridlock in Congress, especially on fiscal issues, as each side compromised on core issues. The emerging framework would give both the Pentagon and domestic agencies two years of budget relief of $80 billion in exchange for cuts elsewhere in the budget.

Justin Amash, R-Mich., “where the leadership team negotiate a deal without speaking to any members of the [Republican] conference — apparently not even the committee chairmen who are in key positions — and then expect all of us to vote for it.” While Boehner hopes “clearing the barn” will make his successor’s job easier, some members of the Republican caucus point out his presumptive heir — Rep. It frees Obama from budget battles as he looks to secure his legacy in the remainder of his second term, and gives clean starts to Ryan as speaker and to Republicans trying to persuade voters that they can be an effective governing majority. Outlined for rank-and-file Republicans in a closed-door session Monday night, the budget relief would total $50 billion in the first year and $30 billion in the second year. “Let’s declare success,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told Republicans, according to Rep. They say Ryan should have been involved in the negotiations. “I think this somewhat insulates Paul [Ryan],” said Flores. “But I still believe if there’s somebody that doesn’t like this and they’re passionate about it, that they’ll take out their feelings on Paul.” The House could vote on this budget agreement as soon as Wednesday — the same day Republicans are expected to officially nominate Ryan as the next speaker. Boehner was repeatedly caught in spending fights between hard-line conservatives in his own party and a White House eager to blame Republicans for any impasse, such as the government shutdown in 2013.

Boehner, with their ties to high-ranking allies in the business and financial worlds, knew that failure to head off a threat to the government’s creditworthiness could boomerang badly on Republicans just one year from Election Day. Still, Ryan faces the same challenge that brought down Boehner and McCarthy: the Freedom Caucus, which not only spurns bipartisan compromises but has made its first goal to purge the GOP of its moderates. But conservatives in the conference who drove Boehner to resign were not ready to fall in line. “This is again just the umpteenth time that you have this big, big, huge deal that’ll last for two years and we were told nothing about it,” said Rep. And, amazingly, some Freedom Caucus members consider Ryan, a thoroughgoing conservative by any traditional definition, to be dangerously moderate too.

Still, he has stitched together a few bipartisan accomplishments this year, including a payment-funding fix to Medicare this spring and trade-negotiation authority this summer. Never mind that Mitt Romney chose Ryan as his running mate in 2012 because the congressman had championed bills to slash domestic spending and turn Medicare into a voucher plan. The caucus asked him to promise that he would never allow a floor vote on any measure unless a majority of Republicans supported it (the “Hastert Rule”); Ryan agreed. Offsetting spending cuts that would pay for domestic spending increases included curbs on certain Medicare payments for outpatient services provided by hospitals and an extension of a 2-percentage-point cut in Medicare payments to doctors through the end of a 10-year budget.

Ryan and allow him time to get his feet under him as the new leader without having to face the nearly impossible job of rounding up votes for the debt limit increase. They have voiced opposition even as financial experts warned of the potentially devastating economic consequences of a default, and noted that raising the limit merely covers previous expenses and does not authorize any new spending. There’s also a drawdown from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, reforms to crop insurance, and savings reaped from a Justice Department funds for crime victims and involving assets seized from criminals. It would give a little breathing room for more spending on politically popular domestic programs like health care research, federal law enforcement and the Coast Guard, while defusing tension between Republican hawks itching for more military spending and budget hawks demanding strict adherence to statutory spending limits.

Negotiators looked to address two other key issues as well: a shortfall looming next year in Social Security payments to the disabled and a large increase for many retirees in Medicare premiums and deductibles for doctors’ visits and other outpatient care. A lot of conservatives disliked that measure. “It is past time that we do away with the harmful, draconian sequester cuts,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “We must also ensure that there are equal defense and nondefense increases.” Just days are left for the deal to come together before Ryan is elected Thursday to replace Boehner, R-Ohio, who is leaving Congress under pressure from conservative lawmakers angered by his history of seeking compromise and Democratic votes on issues like the budget. Until now, the group has maintained its influence by wielding an undivided bloc of about 40 votes, just enough to deprive Boehner or any other speaker of his working majority.

Charlie Dent, R-Pa. “He said he was going to try to clean the barn and this is a good start.” There also could be pitched battles over possible Republican attempts to add “riders” to the spending measure, such as ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood because of its abortion practices. Boehner a “rogue agent” working for special interests in his final hours. “In Washington cleaning the barn is apparently synonymous with shoveling manure on the American people,” said Michael A. Congress must raise the federal debt limit by Nov. 3; Boehner may stay in office just long enough to engineer a bipartisan vote with Democratic support, relieving Ryan of a headache. At a Monday press briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “We continue to urge Republicans to continue to engage constructively with Democrats to identify common ground” to complete a budget and debt limit deal.

Export-Import bank moved a step closer to revival Monday as Republicans and Democrats approved a rarely successful maneuver to force a vote to renew the trade lender’s charter. The move effectively bypasses Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, House Financial Services Committee chairman, who has fought to close EXIM and has blocked legislation to revive it. EXIM, which helps finance U.S.-produced goods and services bought by foreign customers, has been unable to lend or provide loan guarantees and trade insurance for nearly four months, causing some companies to lose export deals and move jobs overseas. Tea Party organizations are already raising money from supporters with appeals to stop any more Ryanesque budget deals. “Whatever our differences, we’re all conservatives,” Ryan told House Republicans last week.

Opponents of the trade bank accuse it of providing taxpayer-funded “corporate welfare” for wealthy corporations including aerospace giant Boeing and industrial conglomerate General Electric. While the four congressional leaders and Obama never met face-to-face in this round, aides said that there were frequent phone calls among the individual leaders as talks developed. But it gives him the right to say he took care of a few messes on his way out the door after a tenure where he was able to reduce overall federal spending, bring an end to earmarks and reach an earlier bipartisan agreement that resolved a long-running problem over Medicare fees for doctors. It also provides one last opportunity to rile the conservatives who called for his scalp while acting in what he sees as the best interests of both the nation and the Republican Party.

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